In the 1st recruitment class with SU, Nicky Adams focused primarily on international players


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When head coach Nicky Adams came to Syracuse in the spring of 2019, the Syracuse squad consisted of just two internationals. She noted that the team had no players from Ontario, Canada, even though the province is only 200 miles from the Syracuse University campus.

Adams wanted to bring a new philosophy and international players to her team, but the recruiting process usually starts two years before a player’s first year, which means she has no control over a recruiting class until the 2021 season.

She kept her promise with eight international players making up Syracuse’s 2021 squad. Four international newbies – including three from Ontario – have contributed to Syracuse’s best start to the season since 2016.

When she arrived in Syracuse, Adams wanted to focus on the area where previous coaches haven’t recruited. She saw an opportunity in Canada to recruit some of the best players in the country. Ontario is home to one of Canada’s four national training centers that prepare players for the Canadian national team – the women’s soccer gold medalists at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.


“I was a little shocked when I got here that there weren’t any Canadians on the roster, especially since I was so close to Ontario,” said Adams.

Freshmen Pauline Machtens from Germany as well as Koby Commandant, Kylen Grant and Sierra Giorgio from Ontario had an immediate impact in Syracuse. Machtens and Commandant started every game. Grant opened the season as a key substitute and has secured spots in the SU’s last two games, including their first conference game. In consecutive wins against Binghamton and New Hampshire earlier in the season, Machtens and Grant jointly scored all three of Syracuse’s goals.

Casey Downey, the coach of the commandant’s club team, the Burlington Bayhawks, agreed with Adams’ view of the SU’s lack of Canadian players. During his 30 years coaching in Burlington, Ontario, Downey has helped secure nearly 150 NCAA scholarships for his players, including sending players to Rice University, where Adams was previously head coach. But he never seemed to develop a relationship with Syracuse, despite his status as the closest power five conference school in the area.

“The men’s program has always recruited in this area, but Syracuse before Nicky? I never got in, ”said Downey. “Syracuse would never play ball with me.”

According to Downey, the Syracuse men’s soccer team has historically been recruited in Ontario. There are currently four players on the Ontario men’s team. In recent years, SU has won players like Bayhawks alum Ryan Raposo, who was ranked fourth overall in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft after his career with the Oranges.

Adams saw in international recruiting not only a space that Syracuse has not been able to recruit in previous seasons, but also to find more players to suit their style of play. Half of the international players on the Syracuse squad are experienced in their country’s national team, which gives them valuable experience, Adams said.

“We wanted to be a little faster. We wanted to be a little bit sportier, a little bit more spirited – but I think, at the same time, experience and I think that’s what some of our internationals bring with them, ”said Adams.

Although Machtens is a newcomer, she has already played in over 50 games for her German club Bayer Leverkusen. She also secured squad places in the German U-15, U-16 and U-18 national teams and has taken part in several international competitions.

International players make up a large part of the 2021 recruitment class.

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The goal for everyone on Grant’s club team in Ottawa was to play collegially in the United States, she said. Downey agreed – his players’ goals were to play in the NCAA, not the national team or professional leagues.

“A hockey player (in Canada), everyone wants to play in the NHL,” Downey said. “In soccer, the ultimate goal is almost always to play in the NCAA.”

In order to secure international talent, Adams, assistant trainer and recruiting coordinator Kelly Madsen and assistant trainer Brandon DeNoyer are consistently on the road to establish contacts with international club trainers. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the coaching staff often had to resort to Zoom calls but visited the players in person when possible.

Madsen watched Commandant practice in Burlington and spoke to her club coaches after watching her play. After Madsen’s visit, the SU commandant’s coaching staff hosted an identification camp, an opportunity for college coaches to get up close and personal with high school players. During Grant’s recruitment process, Madsen discovered her in an identification warehouse in Canada and later invited her to another identification warehouse in Syracuse.

Through weeks of communication, Machtens, Commandant, and Grant all said that Adams sold them in building a new brand of Syracuse football. And this season they helped her create that different style that led SU to its best start since 2016.

“We’re coming from a new era with Nicky as the new head coach and she just seemed so excited for this new class. And she was just very confident in this class, ”said Commander. “It made me part of it.”

Contact Connor: [email protected]

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